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Scapegoats for Overfishing:

In 1497 explorer John Cabot marveled that the east coast of Canada was so full of cod that they literally blocked his ship. In the centuries to come fishing was the main reason people flocked to the province of Newfoundland. They braved the cold winters for the ability to export fish.

The cod in this area had yielded an annual catch of around 250 000 tons until the mid 1950s. During this period of time the fishing industry expanded and fishing methods 'improved' with the introduction of factory trawlers. These ships were modeled after distant whaling ships.

In 1968 due to these improvements the annual cod catch increased to 800 000 tons. Unfortunately this increased catch had a devastating impact on the ecosystem. Cod were caught faster than they could reproduce. Bycatch was also a huge problem that was exponentially increasing.

Due to these huge quotas the industry suffered a severe setback. Even with improved ships by the time 1975 came along only 300 000 tons of cod could be removed.  In 1978 the drop was even more dramatic, the haul dropped to 139 000 tons. 

The huge drop off in 1978 caused the fishery industry to approach the problem with an improvement in fishing technology.  Huge draggers, which are nets that are often larger than football fields drag at the bottom of the ocean catching everything within vicinity.  These nets also destroyed critical habitat and significantly increased the bycatch.

The draggers targeted cod while they were spawning, which is when the population is most vulnerable.  This had a huge negative impact on the reproductive health of cod. This overexploitation went on year after year.

In 1995 a survey reported that the entire northern cod population was at only 1700 tons.  The end result was that the fishing industry collapsed. The Canadian government could of course never admit to mismanagement.

The Canadian government decided that it needed to employ out of work fishermen. They conveniently blamed the seals for the fishery collapse. This is when they would commence the massive seal slaughter which has resulted in Over 1 million seals killed.




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Scapegoats for Overfishing

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